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NZ: Māori TV's Mihingarangi Forbes resigns over 'editorial curbs'

Forbes ... resigned but not talking about the reasons. Image: The Daily Blog

Friday, June 5, 2015

Item: 9298

Nick Grant
AUCKLAND (The National Business Review/ Radio New Zealand): Mihingarangi Forbes, host of Māori Television’s current affairs show Native Affairs, has quit her job, reportedly due to management interference in the programme’s content.

Forbes tweeted news of her resignation but has declined to comment on her reasons for leaving.

However, it is understood her move was prompted by Native Affairs staff being forbidden to run a story on the management of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust on next Monday’s show.

It is the third high profile departure from the broadcaster since Paora Maxwell took up the position of chief executive in May last year.

Head of news and production Julian Wilcox, and former presenter of Native Affairs, and general manager of production Carol Hirschfeld left Māori Television within months of the arrival of Maxwell, whose appointment was reportedly unpopular among staff.

There were concerns about Maxwell’s strong ties to company chairwoman and ex-National Cabinet minister Georgina te Heuheu, and suspicions he would attempt to exercise control over current affairs content critical of Māori establishment figures and institutions.

Forbes has been fronting the award-winning programme for more than two years after her predecessor, Julian Wilcox, a former Māori studies lecturer at AUT before his media career, decided to take a management role off-camera.

Māori commentator and Maui Street blogger Morgan Godfery told Radio New Zealand's Susie Ferguson this morning that the context to which Maxwell was appointed should be remembered.   

Godfery referred to staff opposition to his candidacy, which resulted in the resignation of a board member.

He said: "These things happened because there was a fear of editorial interference."

"There was the belief that Mr Maxwell was being appointed by the Māori establishment, to protect the Māori extablishment and to sort of oversee the slow strangling of Native Affairs."

Godfery spoke about Mediawatch's interview with Maxwell last year, where he "had a go" at the Native Affairs investigation into the Te Kohanga Reo.

During the interview Maxwell said he had issues with "the tone of the approach" and he also demanded that Māori journalists respect their elders.

Godfery said Forbes was "part of the same pattern that Campbell Live was victim to, which is the slow strangling of current affairs television in this country".

Godfery also said editorial interference was "well outside" Maxwell's brief, and that he had "no business" in editorial decisions.

In light of the controversy over Maxwell's appointment, Godfery said: "One would almost think there is an agenda here."

"Any rational selection panel, with the best interests of Māori Television at heart, would not have appointed him," he said.

"The belief that he was appointed to protect the Māori establishment must just be true".

Radio New Zealand News also reported the Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Paoa descendent was likely to host the programme on Monday night and had not yet indicated where she would head to next.

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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